French electronic duo Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" was named album of the year and its frisky hit single "Get Lucky," with Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, won for record of the year Sunday at the 56th Grammy Awards. The Recording Academy voters gave the twosome four awards over the course of a long but visually and musically dazzling ceremony.
Two-time Grammy winner Paul Williams, the veteran songwriter who was one of the collaborators on the album, delivered the acceptance speech for theatrically silent, helmeted musicians Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter. "Back when I was drinking and using, I used to imagine things that weren't there," he said. "And then I got sober and two robots called me and asked me to make an album."
The Grammy stage also saw the mass marriage of 33 couples, including several same-sex partners, to the music of hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' gay-rights anthem "Same Love."
Macklemore and Lewis came away major winners with four Grammys, including new artist and three rap awards generated by their breakthrough album, "The Heist," and another hit single, "Thrift Shop."
After the perennially helmeted partners in Daft Punk strode to the Staples Center stage dressed head to toe in white, looking like friendly French storm troopers and accompanied by Pharrell Williams and Rodgers, Williams took a turn speaking on behalf of the duo: "I suppose the robots would like to thank … you know, honestly, I bet France is really proud of these guys right now."
In a Grammy ceremony as lively in any recent memory, other top awards went to newcomers, notably New Zealand's 17-year-old Lorde. It was a show also buoyed by an emotional reunion performance by surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.
Lorde collected song of the year honors for "Royals," a pointed study in class consciousness she and songwriting partner Joel Little wrote just to see if they could attract anyone's attention.
"We made this song originally to give it away for free," Little said after collecting the songwriting award over nominated works by Bruno Mars, Pink and Nate Ruess, Katy Perry and Macklemore & Lewis. "To be here now in this room with so many legends and people whose work I admire is an honor."
Lorde, the stage name of singer-songwriter Ella Yelich O'Connor, said: "Thank you everyone who has let this song explode, because it's been mental."
It was her second Grammy of the night, after getting the award for pop solo performance for "Royals," trumping hit recordings by Mars, Perry, Justin Timberlake and Sara Bareilles.
Mars' "Unorthodox Jukebox" was named pop vocal album of the year, topping efforts from Robin Thicke, Timberlake, Lorde and Lana Del Rey and giving the R&B star an emotional boost after major tragedy in his life last year.
"I want to dedicate this award to my mother," he said, referencing the sudden death of Bernadette Hernandez last year at age 55 of a brain aneurysm. "Ma, I know you're watching. I hope you're smiling."
Just before Mars took the award, McCartney and Starr performed together on McCartney's "Queenie Eye" from his latest album, "New."
It was their first joint public performance since McCartney appeared at Starr's 70th birthday celebration in 2010. It precedes a heavily promoted join performance on the multi-artist 50th-anniversary CBS special coming Feb. 9, "The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles," commemorating the Fab Four's U.S. television debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on Feb. 9, 1964.
In addition to performances by McCartney and Starr, it will feature sets by Perry, Alicia Keys, Pharrell Williams, George Harrison's son, Dhani Harrison and Joe Walsh among others.
The biggest country music breakout success of 2013 was Kacey Musgraves' "Same Trailer Different Park," and on Sunday it was named country album of the year in a field otherwise dominated by contemporary country's heaviest hitters: Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton and Taylor Swift.
"Oh, my goodness, I can't even…," a visibly rattled and teary-eyed Musgraves said. "I got to make a record I poured myself into and that I am so proud of."
Musgraves earlier cashed in one of her two nominations in the country song category, winning for "Merry Go 'Round," which she wrote with Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne.
The award came close on the heels of a summit meeting of three of country music's greatest living singers-songwriters that played out Sunday, as Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard joined with a more recently minted country star, Shelton, for a medley of three of their signature songs.
Going into Sunday night's ceremony, rapper Jay Z led the field with nine nominations, although none were in the top general categories of record, song or album of the year. Three of the key rap Grammys — rap song, album and performance — went to Seattle-based duo Macklemore & Lewis early on their way to a four-Grammy night.
Jay Z's only win came for rap-sung collaboration for "Holy Grail," his track with Timberlake from his "Magna Carta Holy Grail" album. It was one of two nominations he got in the same category, the other for his "Part II (On the Run)" track from the same album, which he recorded with wife, Beyonce.
"I want to thank God for this award," he said, "but I also want to thank him mostly for putting this beautiful light of young lady in my life. I also want to tell [their daughter] Blue, 'Look — Daddy got a gold sippy cup." As he turned the Grammy statuette on its side.
The Grammy for rock song went to "Cut Me Some Slack," the jam session between McCartney and Nirvana band members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and adjunct touring member Pat Smear that turned into a song.
"We wouldn't be here if it weren't for Paul and for Ringo," Grohl said in accepting the award. "I called up Paul and said, 'Hey, man, do you want to come jam with some friends of mine? He came over, we knocked this out in a couple of hours, and to me, that's what rock 'n' roll is all about."
McCartney stepped to the mike and added, "He said, 'Do you want to come over and do a jam on 'Long Tall Sally?' I said, 'No, we've been there, done that; we should make something up, and that's what this is."
Earlier in the day, in the pre-telecast ceremony, McCartney added another Grammy to his mantle with the award of boxed or special limited-edition release for the deluxe edition reissue of his "Wings Over America" live album documenting his first solo tour of the U.S. in 1976.
For Starr's performance, he sang his 1973 hit "Photograph" while a montage of photos he took during his years as a Beatle were displayed on giant screens behind him. The song about a love that ended took on another dimension as images of the late John Lennon and George Harrison appeared while he sang "all I've got is a photograph, and I realize you're not coming back anymore."
The first award of the telecast was the new artist honor presented to hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who were chosen by voters over Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar, Musgraves, British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran and English dubstep producer-artist James Blake.
"First and foremost, I want to thank our fans, the people that got on us on this stage," rapper Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, said in accepting with producer Lewis. "Before there was any media, before there was any buzz … it spread organically through them, and without them, there would be no us."
It added to what even at the outset was a huge night for Macklemore and Lewis given the three Grammys they picked up in the afternoon ceremony, where the vast majority of awards were announced. They won for rap song, performance and album.
Because the Grammy Awards show is even more about surprise collaborative live performances, the 3 1/2-hour telecast also was being watched for its offbeat pairings of rapper Lamar and rock band Imagine Dragons, Daft Punk's teaming with celebrated R&B-rock-soul singer, songwriter, composer instrumentalist Stevie Wonder and the pairing of classical pianist Lang Lang with hard rock group Metallica.
The opening performance by Beyonce of her "Drunk In Love," with hubby Jay Z providing the midsong rap, was bleeped three times by network censors for expletives in the lyrics of her ode to steamy married sex. Lamar's number with Imagine Dragons also was bleeped several times for language during their pyrotechnic-filled collaboration.
Timberlake won an early award as one of the four co-writers of "Pusher Love Girl," the track from his "The 20/20 Experience" album given the R&B song Grammy. Rihanna's "Unapologetic" took the urban contemporary album trophy, her seventh career win.
Even without a new album in release last year, British soul singer-songwriter Adele took her 10th Grammy for a song written for visual media for "Skyfall," her titular theme song to the James Bond film.
Alicia Keys took her 15th statuette as her "Girl on Fire" album topped efforts by Faith Evans, John Legend, Chrisette Michelle and TGT in the R&B album category.
Among the pre-telecast country awards distributed, former Hootie & the Blowfish front man Darius Rucker took his first solo Grammy — Hootie won two in 1995 — for country solo performance of his single "Wagon Wheel," the Civil Wars pulled off what has to be considered an upset over efforts from Kelly Clarkson & Vince Gill, Little Big Town, Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift & Keith Urban and Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers for duo or group performance on their track "From This Valley."
Wayne Shorter collected his second career Grammy in the improvised solo category for his track "Orbits" from the Wayne Shorter Quartet's album "Without A Net." Terri Lynne Carrington's "Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue" won the jazz instrumental album Grammy.
Los Angeles-based band La Santa Cecelia won the Latin rock, urban or alternative album award for "Treinta Dias," chosen over works by more seasoned acts Café Tacuba, El Tri, Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas and Los Imigos Invisibles. "A Mi Manera" by Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea took the regional Mexican album Grammy.
Steve Martin continued his newfound success as a Grammy-winning bluegrass musician, taking the American roots song award with co-writer Edie Brickell for "Love Has Come For You" from their album of the same name.
The Americana roots album award, however, went to the reteaming of Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, who played together early on in both their careers, for their album "Old Yellow Moon."
The Grammys are determined by about 13,000 voting members. The eligibility period for nominated recordings was Oct. 1, 2012, to Sept. 30, 2013. The latest headlines will be posted here on Pop & Hiss.